Addressing Alcoholism in The Workplace

We’re pleased to feature this blog from Rehab Clinics Group all about alcoholism in the workplace by John Gillen. If this raises any concerns, please get in touch with the Cluer HR team here

You may have suspicions that your workplace has some potential alcohol problems. This may be because you think you have glimpsed discreet alcohol consumption or have recognised classic signs of alcoholism.

As an employer, you are rightly concerned about the impact of alcohol on your business. The appropriate response to this problem can be one of the more difficult challenges that you face because of the sensitivity of the subject.

It is not a straightforward issue to tackle, in that the offenders may genuinely not see there is a problem when you address them. The offender may well see your challenge as unreasonable, unjust, and embarrassing since they do not recognize any problem.

As an employer, you have the right, and absolute duty, to protect your workforce from potential effects of the alcohol problem. The sensitivity of the individual culprit has to be put aside and a straightforward, rational, course of action undertaken to resolve the issue in the workplace.

Once the safety of the workforce is secured, then as a caring employer you can turn to the individual duty of care to the affected employee and try to establish a plan of action to assist the worker.

This may well be one of the more difficult tasks in employee management that you will face, yet it might also be the most satisfying; if you can assist the employee back to a healthier lifestyle.

How do alcohol abuse and alcoholism differ?

You must have an essential understanding of the vocabulary within alcoholism before you tackle this issue. There are different implications for employers between those who are alcoholics and those abusing alcohol.

Alcohol Abuse

Someone who is suffering from alcohol abuse will have a physical reliance on consuming alcohol. This will both be an issue in its own right, but also be the beginning of a gentle slide into alcoholism. The first issue will be the offender accepting there is a problem. At that stage, it may be possible for them to modify behavior by willpower alone. It is possible that the offender will not want to admit there is a problem through pride, fear, or embarrassment. A positive and supportive approach is more likely to convince the member of staff to open up.


With an alcoholic employee, not only is there a physical dependence, but there is also a psychological one as well. This is a far harden problem to deal with as almost certainly it will present issues within your workforce that will have an impact on performance. It will also have a potential effect on your company reputation and internal company relationships. It can also have a negative effect on the overall company culture.

Alcohol Abuse may well be dealt with internally if the employee shows willing to modify their behavior, and the employer values the employee enough to put in some effort. However, alcoholism is not something an employer can resolve alone, and it will not improve without external intervention, which can only happen if the employee is willing. It is both potentially dangerous to your business, your other employees, and the affected individual. It should be taken seriously.

The results of alcoholism in the workplace

Potential issues will be the mental and physical health of the employee. How long will they be able to continue before their performance is reduced? As alcoholism continues the personality of the employee with change and this might result in further issues between members of staff.

The reduced performance will have an impact on time management and quality of work undertaken. This may be mitigated by reducing the individual’s workload and redistributing it to colleagues.

There is, of course, the matter of health and safety as alcoholism can be expected to result in increased accidents or injuries. Not only to the staff member but to other members of staff who may become innocent victims.

It is essential to address these problems as soon as possible; however difficult it is going to be. How you deal with it is the next question. If you are judgmental and do not offer support to your employee, it may be seen by other staff that you are uncaring and only concerned with the bottom line. It may well be better to take a more positive and supportive approach.

Addressing alcoholism in the workplace effectively

Your first action should be to ensure that you have documented policies put in place in conjunction with your HR professionals. These policies should be supportive of those with alcohol and mental health issues. They should be very clear and available to members of staff to view.

Once this is put in place if you have any suspicion of alcohol abuse/alcoholism, then discuss the issue with the employee concerned while reducing pressure on them. Ideally, family members should be kept informed so that possible intervention can be put in place. Of course, the member of staff may react in a hostile way, denying there is any problem. You should continue to take a positive approach and try to convince the member of staff to accept the situation and allow the conversation to move forward in a positive way. It may be wise to have your HR manager present if you think the staff member with be in denial or combative.

Once the issue is discussed, you should make suggestions for methods of tackling the problem, such as alcohol rehab clinics, while continuing to support the employee. This support should be extended during rehab and the subsequent recovery.

Professional referrals at Rehab Clinics Group

All of the above relies on the employee being positive and not remaining in denial of the problems. If these problems continue, it may well be an idea to do a referral of the employee to Rehab Clinics Group and allow experts, who have a detailed knowledge of the issues of alcoholism to consult with the employee. this may be turned down at first by the employee, but you should persist with this suggestion.

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